DANBURY — When East Wilkes’ Ashley Wagoner recorded the second out at third base in the bottom of the seventh inning, it looked like the Cardinals were in good shape.
Two outs. Runners at first and second. A good chance for visiting East Wilkes to get to the eighth inning tied at 2.
But then it all went wrong in the following 10 seconds. Wagoner’s attempt to complete a double play - a throw to first base - arrived high and at the same time as North Stokes hitter-come-runner Emily Evans.
The ball trickled away from first baseman Brandi Parks. The issue of whether Evans should have been called for interference wasn’t raised. Tona Frye, who started the play on first, scored as Parks fought with the ball near the fence.
North Stokes had won 3-2 and advanced to the 1A best-of-three regional series. The Vikings and their fans celebrated. The Cardinals and their fans went stone silent.
“I wonder what the odds in Vegas would have been for a game to end like that,” East Wilkes Coach Bradley Hayes said.
“That was a state championship game,” North Stokes Coach Jeff Frye said just moments after his team plated the winning run in the bottom of the seventh with two outs.
“You are playing a game,” Hayes said. “It’s teenage girls with the pressure on them.
“It’s amazing to watch them with the pressure they have on them. I think both teams handled it well.”
It was a game of nerves between to quality teams. East Wilkes survived a leadoff home run from North Stokes in the first and a 2-0 deficit going into the fourth.
“This kind of had the feel of a championship game,” Hayes said.
Kennedy Lester homered in the fourth inning to cut it to 2-1. Lester then singled to start the East Wilkes sixth. Shanisha White, running for Lester, stole second. White then beat the throw to third on a grounder and scored on an error.
The Cardinals had responded. They had put the pressure back on the Vikings.
“I think nerves got us,” Frye said. “We could have hit a lot better. We tried to push bunt, but they kept us off balance with the rise ball.
“It was frustrating trying to get something going.”
Several opposing coaches thought the Vikings and Cardinals were the best two 1A teams in the state. They just happened to both be in the West bracket together.
“For teams matching up,” Frye said, “We couldn’t match up no better. We both know the other’s defenses.”
After the gut-wrenching loss, Hayes acknowledged the numerous fans, including a busload of students, who came and cheered the Cardinals on. “They’re amazing,” Hayes said. “I wanted to make sure I gave them a special shoutout.
“For a bunch of students to come from Ronda to Danbury,” Hayes said shaking his head.
Hayes said the fan support is due to the success of the team. “It shows what our softball team has done. We’ve gotten them excited to come see them play.
“It tells you what kind of school we have.”
East Wilkes finishes its season at 24-4. A year ago, they went 23-5, losing in the third round to eventual 1A state champion West Wilkes.
EW 000 101 0 — 2 4 3
NS 101 000 1 — 3 4 3
EW: Brandi Parks, Kennedy Lester (4) and Caitlin Macemore. NS: Lindsay Brown and Ashley Smith. 2B: Chandley Garner (NS). HR: Garner, Lester. Records: EW 24-4; NS 24-2.
Jim Fuller may be reached at 336-835-1513 or on Twitter @elkinareasports.